Rowing is a tool to build team spirit at the Merchants, Bankers and Clubs Regatta

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the sun shimmers off the murky Adyar river as a fleet of boats swiftly slices through the water and participants row with furious intensity in a bid to finish first. At the 152-year-old Madras Boat Club, the finals of the Merchants, Bankers and Clubs Regatta 2019 (MB&C) is underway. The Regatta (a series of boating races) has a history akin to that of the club itself, and was initiated in 1900 by a group of merchants and bankers to promote the sport of rowing.

Rabindranath Rao, head of the organising committee, recalls how the British mercantile firms of Binny & Co, Parry & Co, among others, came together to compete, “The event was held every year since its inception until 2007. In 2017, it was revived as part of the 150th year celebrations of Madras Boat Club, in its new avatar as the Merchants, Bankers and Clubs Regatta.” With clubs across the city joining in, the third edition featured 10 teams, with the likes of RR Donnelley, India Cements Capital Ltd and Royal Madras Yacht Club taking part in 18 events across six days.

Winners of this edition

Winners of this edition   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

However, the actual training process begins three months earlier, with the assigning of coaches, chosen from among the senior oars persons at the club. The participants are then guided through the basics of the sport, slowly adapting them to water, an unfamiliar terrain for most. The participants are here at the crack of dawn, rowing until 8 am, with some even making it back in the evening to hone their technique. “We had to schedule a strict functional training programme, focusing on stabilising the muscles and building endurance. Winning a race is a team effort, it requires the whole crew to train together both on land and water, to make sure each one mirrors the movement of the other,” says Vishal Reddy, a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, who joined in for the second year.

As boats like the Novice Scull, Mixed Coxed Fours and Coxed Pairs take to the water, every race ends with the crowd chanting ‘take her home’, indicating the last portion of a race, when one is expected to put in an additional burst of energy, sprinting to the finish.

The atmosphere is competitive, but there is a sense of camaraderie, and Ajay Sethi, captain of the Nataraj and Venkat Architects team, adds, “Building team spirit in the sport continues at work and we have discovered that while work is important, rowing takes priority.”

Done and dusted

The light soon begins to fade, the club is awash with a soft glow and the scene is set for the most important races of the day — the Men and Women Coxed Fours. Fighting tooth and nail for the trophy, the crews display an intensity that makes it easy to forget that they are amateurs. As the men’s crew from Nexus Innovative Solutions surges to first place, the women’s team from the Madras Gymkhana Club clinches the gold, ringing in the Overall Championship for the third year in a row. The last boats glide smoothly over the water as athletes swing their bodies in rhythm; the coxswain joining in to count down the number of strokes to the finish. The sun sets and they sign off, triumphant from their victories, “3..2..1…Easy Oars!”

Contact Madras Boat Club at 24353190 for details on how to join the sport.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 3:02:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/races/rowing-is-a-tool-to-build-team-spirit-at-the-merchants-bankers-and-clubs-regatta/article29757549.ece

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